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Ranking top candidates, Patrick Mahomes’ chances

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For most of the first half of the 2022 NFL season, it seemed like Josh Allen was running away with the MVP award. Then the Buffalo Bills lost to the New York Jets, and again to the Minnesota Vikings in dramatic fashion this past Sunday — and Allen’s mistakes were front and center.

In that stretch, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes moved to the front of the pack, and Jalen Hurts led the Philadelphia Eagles to an 8-1 start that bolstered his campaign. They all remain in the mix, forming a list highlighted by five quarterbacks all under the age of 28. Eight weeks remain in the regular season, with plenty of opportunities for the league leaders to remain out front in the MVP race and other candidates to emerge.

We asked a group of analysts — Matt Bowen, Mike Clay, Courtney Cronin, Dan Graziano, Matt Miller, Sal Paolantonio, Jason Reid, Jordan Reid, Mike Tannenbaum, Seth Walder and Field Yates — to vote on the top players in the MVP race right now. Then we used those 11 sets of rankings to give our top five candidates, using Heisman Trophy-esque scaling for each ranking to determine how the field stacks up. We’ll also look at a few names who have seen their MVP stock either spike or plummet in the early going, and ESPN analytics writer Seth Walder also weighed in on an under-the-radar MVP-caliber player. Here’s a look at where things stand entering Week 11.

Note: All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.

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Top five | Just missed
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Under the radar

2022 stats: 2,936 passing yards, 25 TDs, 7 INTs, 78.6 QBR (215 rushing yards, 1 TD)

Current odds: +120

Mahomes has become the betting favorite for MVP and has the league’s top scoring team (30.0 points per game) in line for a seventh straight AFC West title. His 25 touchdown passes lead the league and are five more than Allen’s 20 — which is tied for the third-largest lead in passing touchdowns over the past 15 seasons. The two ahead of him — Tom Brady had a 10-touchdown lead in 2007 and Peyton Manning was eight TDs up in 2013 — both earned MVP honors in their respective seasons.

In Week 9 against the Titans, Mahomes accounted for 509 yards of offense and had 68 pass attempts (with a 63.2% completion percentage) to lead Kansas City to an overtime victory, its sixth win of the season. That night he catapulted himself to the top of this list. And the Chiefs got their seventh win after the quarterback threw four touchdown passes against the Jaguars last Sunday.

There were a lot of questions entering the season about how Mahomes would fare without Tyreek Hill, after the receiver was traded to the Dolphins. His 78.6 QBR ranks second among QBs and proves he’s more than capable of putting up high-caliber performances with or without the speedy receiver.


2022 stats: 2,217 passing yards, 14 TDs, 3 INTs, 63.7 QBR (354 rushing yards, 7 TDs)
Current odds: +550

The Eagles’ undefeated streak came to an end in a nationally televised game against the Commanders on Monday. Had they not lost 32-21, that game would have certainly put Hurts in the mix for the No. 1 spot in our rankings. Hurts still threw two touchdown passes and had 175 yards against a middling Commander’s pass defense.

Despite the lone loss, the 24-year-old went four weeks without throwing an interception (Weeks 5-9) and scored his 20th career rushing touchdown in his 28th start. That is the second-fewest starts needed to reach that mark since 1950 (the other was Cam Newton), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.


2022 stats: 2,733 passing yards, 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 74.3 QBR (476 rushing yards, 4 TDs)
Current odds: +500

Following the loss to the Jets, Allen’s MVP odds took a further hit after he threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball in the end zone on a quarterback sneak attempt against the Vikings on Sunday, giving Minnesota a defensive touchdown. As a result, the Bills allowed a season-high 13 points off turnovers. Allen’s injured elbow was the focal point entering Sunday, but he averaged 7.6 air yards per completion in Week 10, which was in line with his season average (7.3).

With seven turnovers in his past 10 quarters and a league-worst 10 interceptions, Allen — who was ranked No. 1 on this list after Week 6 — needs to figure out how to recapture the jaw-dropping plays that make him one of the NFL’s best QBs. He also has to get Buffalo’s offense back on track in the third and fourth quarters. The Bills haven’t scored a TD in the second half since they played Kansas City a month ago.


2022 stats: 2,265 passing yards, 18 TDs, 3 INTs, 82.6 QBR (35 rushing yards)
Current odds: +500

Tagovailoa has been on a tear since returning from a concussion in Week 7. He leads the NFL in passer rating (118.4) and yards per attempt (9.1), and he has 18 passing touchdowns (tied for third) despite missing three games. The Dolphins quarterback has thrown for 969 yards, nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions in his past three games, which included back-to-back 300-yard passing performances against the Lions and Bears.

All of this has led to a shift in the AFC East, where the Dolphins have overtaken the Bills for the division lead. Miami has won every game Tagovailoa has started and finished, en route to a 7-3 record.


2022 stats: 1,768 passing yards, 16 TDs, 6 INTs, 65.1 QBR (635 rushing yards, 2 TDs)
Current odds: +1200

Injuries to Baltimore’s skill players have caused Jackson’s passing numbers to dip since Week 7. He fell to second in rushing among QBs after Bears quarterback Justin Fields ended Week 10 with 749 yards. But Jackson’s 7.4 yards per rush is tops in the league.

In the middle of a contract year, Jackson has the Ravens atop the AFC North with a 6-3 record. While his passing numbers — he ranks 21st in passing yards and 18th in yards per attempt (6.9) — are nowhere near where they need to be for him to capture another MVP title, the Baltimore quarterback continues to prove his value to an organization that runs its entire offense through him.


Just missed

Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins (+5000)

A wide receiver has never earned MVP honors, but the case Hill is building puts him in the conversation. The Dolphins’ star leads the NFL with 1,148 receiving yards and has 81 catches through 10 games. His 114.8 receiving yards per game has him on pace to become the first 2,000-yard receiver in NFL history, and it’s no coincidence that as Hill is ascending, so is his quarterback. In just seven and a half games played with Hill, Tagovailoa leads the NFL in QBR (82.6) after ranking 21st in 2021.

Justin Jefferson, WR, Minnesota Vikings (+8000)

By now you’ve seen the catch that is being debated among the greatest of all time — a catch that came when the Vikings needed their star WR the most. Jefferson is vital to the Vikings’ run to an 8-1 record and is absolutely in the conversation as the best receiver in the game. He has caught roughly 70% of his targets this season and recently brought in 10 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown in an overtime win over Buffalo. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, nine of those catches had a sub-50% completion probability, and Jefferson averaged 1.5 yards of separation on 16 targets.

Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (+6000)

Smith is a surefire candidate for the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award. He has also been one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks for a team that looked like it might be rebuilding entering the season. Smith has the Seahawks in first place in the NFC West while simultaneously ranking fifth in passing (2,474 yards) and touchdowns (17) with the fourth-highest QBR (67.7).

Micah Parsons, LB, Dallas Cowboys (+15,000)

The Defensive Player of the Year front-runner has put pressure on opposing quarterbacks on 18.6% of his pass rushes, the highest rate in the NFL. The Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been as devastating in recent weeks, especially against the run, but Parsons is a major reason Dallas ranks fifth in points allowed.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants (+20000)

Barkley leads the NFL with 931 rushing yards, the second-highest total through nine games in Giants’ franchise history. His 152 rushing yards in a win over Houston were his second-highest total of the season, and his 227 touches (ranked first) and 1,128 scrimmage yards (ranked second) are the engine of New York’s offense.

Also received top-10 votes: Titans RB Derrick Henry, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, Bengals QB Joe Burrow, Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, Rams DT Aaron Donald, Eagles CB James Bradberry, Chargers QB Justin Herbert, Bills WR Stefon Diggs, Eagles WR AJ Brown, Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, Giants QB Daniel Jones


Stock up

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans (+15000)

Henry’s 923 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns both rank second in the league — and he’s not far from leading both of those categories. The Titans have quietly put together a 6-3 record and sit atop the AFC South with the offense funneling through Henry. Before Denver found a way to hold Henry to 53 rushing yards (his fewest in a win in the past four seasons), he had run for more than 100 yards in five straight games — including a 219-yard performance at Houston in Week 8 .


Stock down

Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers (+6,000)

The Chargers remain in the playoff hunt at 5-4 while dealing with a slew of injuries. Those are starting to take a toll, though, as Herbert has been without top wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams for several weeks. He’s still averaging 42 pass attempts per game and ranks in the top 10 in yards (2,450) and touchdown passes (14), but without the threat of a rushing attack and a leaky defense, Herbert and the Chargers are struggling to prove they’re contenders.


Walder’s under-the-radar MVP candidate

Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (+6000)

The top five quarterbacks in points above average, a volume version of QBR, are currently Mahomes, Allen, Tagovailoa, Smith and Hurts. So why doesn’t Smith receive top-five MVP buzz like the others? He is in a very favorable situation with the Seahawks’ strong offensive line and is throwing to a great receiver combination in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. And you could basically say the same thing about Hurts’ offensive support. The Eagles do have more wins than the Seahawks, but they also have a much, much better defense. Smith should be in the top five.

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